Record Cuke Measures 43 Inches (1.09m) Long


Photo: Ric Dugan

The world’s longest-ever cuke was grown – to 43 inches (1.09m) – this year in Maryland from seeds purchased at a Home Depot store. Depot, indeed: The grower, Butch Taulton, a 72-year-old retired road construction worker and on-going goat-raiser, told, a produce industry report, that there’s no way he could consume all of this monster – which grew to a significantly greater size than the seed packet said it would.

“I just kept watering it and it kept growing,” Taulton told the World Record Academy, which earlier this year awarded him the ‘world’s largest’ title held since 2011 by Ian Neales, of Wales, whose trophy measured 42.1 inches.

“The packet of seeds from Home Depot said they would grow between 32 to 36 inches long—they weren’t supposed to get this big,” Taulton said.

In case you’re wondering, the heaviest-ever cuke weighed in, according to Guinness, at 23 pounds 7 ounces (12.9kg). It was recorded by the record monitors in September, 2015.

Fewer HIV Sufferers Need Hospital Care: New Study


Hospital admissions to treat HIV fell by one-third between 2000 and 2013, even though the number of people living with HIV increased by more than 50 percent during that time, according to a new study from AHRQ – the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The analysis is the first to show that a downward trend in the number of hospital admissions per person living with HIV continued after 2010. Based on HIV patient data in five states – California, Florida, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina – the study found that people with HIV were 64 percent less likely to be hospitalized in 2013 than they were in 2000.

The study attributed the reduction to highly active antiretroviral therapy to treat HIV that was introduced between 1995 and 2000 as well as clinicians’ enhanced ability to treat HIV.

An abstract of the study, “Hospital Use by Persons With HIV in the 21st Century: a 5-State Study,” which was published in Medical Care, is available here.

A Whale of a Problem: Ship Noise Interferes With Echo-locating of Prey



Many of mankind’s activities contribute, directly or indirectly, to the extermination of animal species. Some of those activities could, conceivably, be curbed to a degree that some species, such as those whose habitat is being destroyed or depleted by clear-cutting land or over-farming it, might be able to hang on for a while longer. But a newly-discovered threat seems to be on a collision course with the likes of whales and perhaps dolphins and porpoises. And there doesn’t seem to be any way this threat can be reduced to a significant enough degree.

The threat is, simply, the sounds ships of various types make as they go about the business of hauling stuff we eat, wear and decorate our homes and offices with – as well as nearly everything else humans use – from one side of the globe to another.

If you are fortunate enough to live near an ocean and a place where you can swim, if you put your head underwater and listened, you’d hear . . . nothing, even when you can see ships ‘out there’, within a couple of miles of you. The reason that’s so is because you don’t hear at the same sound range, the decibel level, as sea creatures who rely on echo-locating do.

Echo-locating is how whales, dolphins and the like navigate and, as important, find their food. It’s like radar, in that it bounces a signal off things – objects, potential prey, other members of the same or a similar species – in a way that the bounced-back signal says ‘stay away’, ‘that’s food’, or ‘that’s a friend (or competitor)’. Echo-locating also enables such creatures to communicate with each other – possibly to warn of dangers, or advise of food sources. No one’s yet devised an Enigma Machine to break either whales’, dolphins’ or porpoises’ communications code. More’s the pity: We might learn something valuable from them.

Ship engines, be they conventional or nuclear powered ones, make noise – a lot of it. Some, unfortunately, is at frequencies of 20,000 Hz (a measure of electromagnetic waves). (Wikipedia notes that a human infant’s ear “is able to perceive frequencies ranging from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz; the average adult human can hear sounds between 20 Hz and 16,000 Hz.” The reference goes on to note that, “the range of ultrasound, infrasound and other physical vibrations such as molecular and atomic vibrations extends from a few femtoHz into the terahertz range and beyond.” (Yeah, I know, TMI!)

In other words, sea mammals make sense of sounds at far higher frequencies than humans can perceive, but in synch with some ships, in the ordinary nature of their job, produce.

The Guardian published an article yesterday (Feb. 2, 2016) reporting on a report of unfortunate complexity – as scientific reports are wont to be – on this issue. At the very least, check out The Guardian link.

While this is a complex issue, it’s actually easy to understand. I’ve hit the high points – somewhat short of The Guardian’s coverage (but I hit it from a different angle). If you want to dig deeper into the issue, please use this post’s various links. I learned a lot through them. You could, too.


A Non-Starter Statistic: “450 of 452 Suicide Bombers Were Muslim”

ccharleston_church_fireIsrael’s Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University has released results of a study claiming that 450 of 452 suicide bombers last year were Muslims. Reported in glaring headlines by The Times of Israel, this is probably among the most deceiving (and self-serving) statistics you will read about so-called suicide bombings – not least because it makes a couple of very broad, and undoubtedly wrong assumptions.

First of all, the statistic, regardless of what the Tel Aviv University study found, fails to acknowledge that a significant number of ‘suicide bombers’ weren’t classified as such. It also presumes that failure to call hundreds of other mass killers imagined, somehow, that they would do their thing then live to tell the tale – or possibly do the same thing again.

The Washington Post, quoting the Mass Shootings database of, noted last October 4, the 204th day of 2015, there had been 204 mass shootings in the U.S. so far in the year. Most of those, were by no measure, involved ‘terrorists’ as shooters. But many did. One paragraph of the Post story cited several of them:

“Nine dead in shooting at Black church in Charleston. Four marines, one sailor killer in attacks on Chattanooga military facility. Gunman opens fire on Louisiana movie theater.”

What is terrorism? How is it defined? How do those cases, in particular, fit the definition?

The FBI’s definition of domestic terrorism says this:

“Domestic terrorism” means activities with the following three characteristics:

Involve acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law;

Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination. or kidnapping; and

Occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.

By that definition, and a similar one for “international terrorism,” relatively small numbers of ‘terrorists’ use bombs. And many apparently presume that they will walk away from the havoc they’ve wreaked. Most, fortunately, do not.

Granted, Tel Aviv University is an what you might call an ‘unusual position’ – where suicide bombers, in the traditional sense, are rife. They, obviously, neither expect nor wish to walk away from their crimes. That makes ‘home-grown’ U.S. terrorists who shoot up movie theaters, child care centers and other venues any less worthy of the title ‘terrorist’ or any more likely, in most instances, to leave their site of destruction unharmed – or alive.

And almost none of the domestic terrorists in the U.S. last year were Muslims.